Barry Reckord

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Barry Reckord
Barrington John Reckord

(1926-11-19)19 November 1926
Died20 December 2011(2011-12-20) (aged 85)
EducationEmmanuel College, Cambridge
Notable workFlesh to a Tiger
RelativesLloyd Reckord (brother)

Barrington John Reckord (19 November 1926 – 20 December 2011),[1] known as Barry Reckord, was a Jamaican playwright, one of the earliest Caribbean writers to make a contribution to theatre in Britain.[2][3][4][5] His brother was the actor and director Lloyd Reckord, with whom he sometimes worked.[1]

Early years and education[edit]

Barrington John Reckord was born in Kingston, Jamaica, where he grew up in Vineyard Town with his three siblings: two brothers, Carol and Lloyd, and a sister Cynthia.[3] He attended Kingston College and after matriculation went on to study theology at St Peter's College in 1948. He left the island in 1950 after winning an Issa Scholarship to Cambridge University, where he read for a degree at Emmanuel College, graduating in 1953.[1][2]

Writing career[edit]

He began writing plays as a student and several of them were performed at London's Royal Court Theatre (he is claimed as the first Black Briton to have had a play on there),[6] sometimes directed by his brother Lloyd Reckord.[2][7][8]

Della, Barry Reckord's first play, which (as Adella) had been staged by his brother in a small fringe production in 1954, was produced under the title Flesh to a Tiger at the Royal Court in 1958, directed by Tony Richardson, with a cast that featured Cleo Laine, Pearl Prescod, Nadia Cattouse, Johnny Sekka and Lloyd Reckord,[1] and choreography by Boscoe Holder.[9] The play dealt with the attempts by a cult leader to enforce his wishes on a female member of his congregation.[10]

In 1961 the Royal Court also produced You in Your Small Corner, which transferred to the New Arts Theatre and was subsequently adapted for ITV's Play of the Week series in an episode that aired on 5 June 1962,[1] directed by Claude Whatham.[11][12] This broadcast was once thought to contain the first interracial kiss on television between Lloyd Reckord, the playwright's brother, and Elizabeth MacLennan,[13][14] although this is no longer the case.[15]

Reckord's most successful play Skyvers, first produced in 1963 at the Royal Court (directed by Ann Jellicoe, with an all-white cast that included David Hemmings),[1] is considered by Guardian critic Michael Billington to be "one of the key plays of the 1960s", prefiguring Edward Bond's 1965 Saved.[16] Skyvers, which deals with the alienation of a group of working-class south London boys in the last few days at their comprehensive school, was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in November 2012 as part of a series of plays curated by Kwame Kwei-Armah,[17] after lobbying to ensure better recognition for black dramatists.[18]

Reckord wrote other television dramas, including for the BBC In the Beautiful Caribbean (1972) and Club Havana (1975),[4] as well as a book about Cuba entitled Does Fidel Eat More Than Your Father (Praeger, 1971).[2]

In 1973 he received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship to Assist Research and Artistic Creation.[19] Also in 1973, Reckord was awarded the Silver Musgrave Medal by the Institute of Jamaica.[2][3]

Final years[edit]

Reckord spent most of his adult life in Britain, for more than four decades with his companion Diana Athill, who in her memoirs has written candidly about their unconventional relationship, both as lovers and friends.[20][21][22][23] When in the 1970s he decided to produce his new play White Witch in Jamaica, the central role was won by a young woman named Sally Cary, a farmer's daughter from Somerset, who began an intimate involvement with the playwright that continued on their return to London, leading Athill to conclude: "since she was spending almost every night in Barry's bed, keeping her bedsitter was a waste of money, so I suggested that she move in with us.... When Sally joined us what I felt was that I now had a lovely new friend in the house, as well as a darling old one, and the next two years or so were some of the happiest I can remember."[24][25]

In the last few years of his life Reckord suffered from ill health, eventually moving back to Jamaica to live with family.[26] He died on the island in Boscobel, Saint Mary Parish, in December 2011, aged 85.[2] In accordance with his wishes, his body was donated to the University of the West Indies for medical research.[3]


On 23 September 2012, a tribute to Reckord's life and work, called "Reckord Celebrations"[27] (directed by Michael Buffong for Talawa Theatre Company and The London Hub),[16] was held at the Bush Theatre, Shepherd's Bush, London, with contributors including Max Stafford-Clark, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Don Warrington and Diana Athill.

At the same time The London Hub launched the Barry Reckord Bursary, open to black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) artists, and designed to encourage new playwrights.[28] As Michael Billington commented in The Guardian: "It's good to see Reckord at last being given his due. But one way to celebrate a playwright is to encourage his successors."[16] The first recipient of the Barry Reckord Bursary was announced as Ravi Thornton in January 2013.[29]

In April 2017, theatre company Thee Black Swan in association with the Chelsea Theatre in London staged a new production of Reckord's play White Witch,[30][31][32] presented for the first time in the UK.[33] Set in 18th-century Jamaica at Rose Hall mansion, and based on a true story, the play tells of a young white woman who falls in love with a black man at a time when their relationship is taboo, and of the fallout – "a tale of mysticism, love, cruelty and revenge cast against the unforgiving backdrop of the transatlantic slave trade."[34] Earning five-star reviews,[35] White Witch in this production by Joseph Charles was described by The London Journalist as "an intensely delicious and powerful play.... truly theatre at its best: cruelly assaulting the senses of the audience, stimulating unconscious fears, desires and prejudices, and allowing unrepressed joy to burst forth... A supreme performance from a small company shouting loudly from the shadows."[36]

Selected plays[edit]


  • Yvonne Brewster, ed., For the Reckord Archived 1 February 2017 at the Wayback Machine (a collection of three plays by Barry Reckord: Flesh to a Tiger; Skyvers; The White Witch). London: Oberon Books, 2010. ISBN 978-1-84943-053-1


  1. ^ a b c d e f Margaret Busby (16 January 2012). "Barry Reckord obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Reckord completes the final act". The Gleaner. 22 December 2011. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d Richard Johnson (29 December 2011). "Late playwright Barry Reckord's body donated to science". The Jamaica Observer. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  4. ^ a b Ann Ogidi. "Reckord, Barry". Screenonline. British Film Institute. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  5. ^ Hassan Mahamdallie (13 September 2011). "The Creative Case for Diversity". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 9 February 2012.
  6. ^ Vanessa Thorpe, "After a century of black British theatre, actors still struggle to take centre stage", The Observer, 25 October 2015.
  7. ^ Martin Banham; Errol Hill (1994). The Cambridge Guide to African and Caribbean Theatre. Cambridge University Press. pp. 213. ISBN 978-0-521-41139-4.
  8. ^ Michael Reckord, "Theatre Veteran Lloyd Reckord Passes", The Gleaner, 11 July 2015.
  9. ^ "Flesh to a Tiger", Black Plays Archive, National Theatre.
  10. ^ Arthur Holmberg, Carlos Solorzano, World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre: Volume 2: The Americas, Routledge, 2014, p. 189.
  11. ^ "You in Your Small Corner" (ITV Play of the Week, Season 7 | Episode 21), IMDb.
  12. ^ Eleni Liarou, "You in Your Small Corner (1962)", BFI Screen Online.
  13. ^ Mark Brown (20 November 2015). "TV archive discovers couple who beat Kirk and Uhura to first interracial kiss". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  14. ^ Stuart Black, "World’s First Interracial TV Kiss Was In Brixton", Londonist, 20 November 2015.
  15. ^ Amanda Bidnall, The West Indian Generation: Remaking British Culture in London, 1945-1965, Oxford University Press, 2017, p. 226.
  16. ^ a b c Michael Billington, "Why the best way to honour past playwrights is to invest in the future", The Guardian, 18 September 2012.
  17. ^ "Skyvers by Barry Reckord", Drama on 3, BBC Radio 3, 18 November 2012.
  18. ^ Elizabeth Pears, "Fond Farewell To Trio Who Helped Shape Black Britain", The Voice, 24 January 2012.
  19. ^ "Biography - Barry Reckord". Extract from Marjorie H. Morgan, Caribbean Britain: The Cultural and Biographical Directory, via Historical Geographies, 7 February 2012.
  20. ^ Diana Athill, "A final farewell to sex", The Guardian, 22 December 2007.
  21. ^ Sarah Lyall, "In Life’s Latest Chapter, Feeling Free Again", The New York Times, 10 October 2010.
  22. ^ Mick Brown, "Diana Athill on letters, lovers & letting go", The Telegraph, 23 September 2011.
  23. ^ Allan Fallow, "‘Alive, Alive Oh!’: At 98, Diana Athill is still far from the end of her story", The Washington Post, 26 February 2016.
  24. ^ Diana Athill, Life Class: The Selected Memoirs of Diana Athill, Granta Books, 2009, pp. 604–606.
  25. ^ Diana Athill, "Living with Barry and Sally", Web of Stories.
  26. ^ Charles-Adam Foster-Simard, "Instead of a Review: On Reading Diana Athill", The Millions, 25 May 2016.
  27. ^ "Who was Barry Reckord?" Archived 2 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Talawa Theatre Company, 18 September 2012.
  28. ^ "London Hub seeks emerging artists and playwrights for the Barry Reckord Bursary & Pitch it", Afridiziak Theatre News, 2 October 2012.
  29. ^ "Ravi Thornton is the first recipient of The Barry Reckord Bursary", Afridiziak Theatre News, 19 January 2013.
  30. ^ "White Witch of Rose Hall" Archived 18 April 2017 at the Wayback Machine,, 4 April 2017.
  31. ^ Michael Davis, "White Witch, Chelsea Theatre – Review", Breaking The Fourth Wall, 10 April 2017.
  32. ^ "White Witch" Archived 18 April 2017 at the Wayback Machine at
  33. ^ "Thee Black Swan in association Chelsea Theatre presents...".
  34. ^ "White Witch at Chelsea Theatre" Archived 18 April 2017 at the Wayback Machine,
  35. ^ "White Witch", Time Out.
  36. ^ "'The White Witch', Chelsea Theatre", The London Journalist, 9 April 2017.
  37. ^ "Don't Gas the Blacks", Black Plays Archive, National Theatre.
  38. ^ Barry Reckord (1926-2011) Archived 1 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine,

External links[edit]